A Free-Market Energy Blog

Julian Simon on the Ultimate Resource (forget about ‘peak energy’–worry about peak government)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 5, 2009

Julian Simon (1932–98) is an inspiration to those of us here at MasterResource and, indeed, the whole capitalist movement. Indeed, it was he who characterized energy as the master resource and human ingenuity as the ultimate resource.

In honor of Simon, I have reproduced some quotations from his works and invite readers to add their favorite in the comment section.

“The world’s problem is not too many people, but a lack of political and economic freedom.”

– Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton, N.Y.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 11.

“There is only one important resource which has shown a trend of increasing scarcity rather than increasing abundance. That resource is the most important of all—human beings. . . . [An] increase in the price of peoples’ services is a clear indication that people are becoming more scarce even though there are more of us.”

– Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton, N.Y.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 581.

“Human beings create more than they destroy.”

– Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton, N.Y.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 580.

 “Progress toward a more abundant material life does not come like manna from heaven. . . . My message certainly is not one of complacency. In this I agree with the doomsayers: our world needs the best efforts of all humanity to improve our lot.”

– Julian Simon, “Introduction,” in Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995), p. 27.

“Adding more people causes problems. But people are also the means to solve these problems. The main fuel to speed the world’s progress is our stock of knowledge; the brakes are our lack of imagination and unsound social regulations of these activities. The ultimate resource is people—especially skilled, spirited, and hopeful young people endowed with liberty—who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefits, and so inevitably they will benefit the rest of us as well.”

– Julian Simon, “Introduction,” in Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995), p. 27.

And here is one Simon-like quotation from outside of the Simon tradition to think about!

“The worst of all forms of pollution is wasted lives.”

 – Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1992, 1993), p. 162.


  1. GORE LIED  

    Thanks for that. Simon is one of my heroes, and under-appreciated for his contribution to free market thought. I loan my copy of Ultimate Resourse II to whoever I can get to read it. It’s truly a mind-expanding book.


  2. Andrew  

    Gore’s grammar doesn’t seem quite right. Should that be an “are” or am I crazy?


  3. rbradley  

    “Worst” is singular, Andrew.

    Maybe Gore is correct on this one….


  4. Andrew  

    rob-I was thinking it should be plural because of “forms” but my instincts failed me. And you know he just might be this one time.


  5. Neil S  

    One of the my favourite qoutes which I believe is attributed to JS is:

    ‘with every mouth comes two hands and a mind’.


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  7. Steven Hales  

    I am glad I discovered your blog. Simon too is one of my favorite economists. His clear thinking and patience with critics is something for which to strive. There is too little of both clearness and patience in debate. Rhetoric dominates and pollutes to the point that it is itself an externality that costs all of us precious time. Keep up the good work here. Clearness and patience will win, eventually.


  8. Rob Bradley  


    Very glad to have you as a reader. Yes, Julian Simon is a father figure to many of the debates raging today.

    I am thinking of doing a ‘climategate’ post on how the intellectual establishment treated him back in the 1970s. Climategate did not start with climate.


  9. IER/AEA: A Free Market Energy OrganizationInstitute for Energy Research | Institute for Energy Research  

    […] failure elucidates the gulf between intention and result in the public sector. Julian Simon’s ultimate resource uniquely explains why so-called depletable resources expand over time in a business/economic sense. […]


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